Venezuela will implement electricity rationing as of Monday, cutting supplies for four hours a day to every home in the country, as a drought threatens to slash output at the giant Guri dam.
The rationing will last 40 days after rains in the north of the country failed to ease the crisis, Electricity Minister Luis Motta Dominguez said Thursday on state television. The ministry will release details of the daily cuts shortly, he said.
“We ask for the cooperation of all Venezuelans,” Motta Dominguez said. “It’s time to be patriotic and united to combat and minimize these climatic effects.”
Faced with a prolonged drought blamed on the El Nino weather phenomenon, President Nicolas Maduro last week stepped up measures to reduce consumption, asking Venezuelans to curtail the use of everything from hairdryers to clothes irons. Public workers are already working a four-day week and public holidays have been extended to reduce demand. It hasn’t been enough.
Water levels at Guri continue to fall to the 240 meter-mark that would force authorities to shut down the plant. The dam is currently at 242.07 meters.
The rationing will add to the hardships of Venezuelans who have already become accustomed to water rationing, standing in long lines to buy basic goods due to shortages, triple-digit inflation and the nation’s deepest recession in more than a decade as a collapse in oil revenue saps government coffers.
Now Venezuelans face a new ignominy; a beer shortage. Empresas Polar SA, the country’s largest privately-held company and biggest brewer, said Wednesday that it will be forced to stop producing beer because it can’t get the foreign currency it needs to purchase malted barley.
Venezuela has the highest per capita rate of beer consumption in South America and comes in at number 24 in the world, Kirin Holdings Co. said in a report published last year.
In 2015, Venezuela’s economy -- largely dependent on the sale of oil -- contracted by 5.7 percent and is expected to shrink by an additional 8 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. The currency has lost 98 percent of its value on the black market since Maduro took office in 2013. Inflation is projected to rise to nearly 500 percent.
Guri Dam, located in the southern state of Bolivar, supplies as much as 75 percent of the electricity consumed in the capital of Caracas and about 40 percent of the electricity consumed nationwide.
Today’s announcement “won’t solve anything,” Miguel Lara, an independent power sector analyst, said in an interview from Caracas. “It will bring more chaos. This only makes official what they had already been doing, with some parts of the country already without electricity for six to eight hours a day.”
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